In South Asia the countries have a common colonial heritage South Asia
and many of the prevailing attitudes derive from that heritage. The richer, more educated people are very elitist and the poorer classes are very conscious of knowing their place in the multilayered social structure. They accept bribery as a part of normal exchange and view it as commission, not corruption. All these attitudes impact greatly the way business is carried out, with whom, and how things get done.

India is vast with many different cultures, religions and cultures.  Referred to as one of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) it has a fast-growing developing economy. Vast numbers of highly educated, numerate, English-speaking young people have supplied the necessary workforce for a growing high-tech knowledge economy. The modern India, with its Bollywood films, sits firmly by the side of its third world old India.

So far in this section you’ll find the  Top Ten Tips for doing business in four countries of South Asia, along with opening times, holiday dates and festivities. These are: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma).


  1. Business is conducted at a snail’s pace.  Be prepared for a good deal of discussion, followed by a long wait for final decision
  2. A handshake signals an agreement; but business contracts will be scrutinized and this can take weeks or months.
  3. A direct ‘No’ is never possible; Indians will say many things that sound like ‘Yes’ but aren’t!
  4. Phrase questions carefully, i.e. “Where does this road lead?” not “Does this road go to Mombai?” Indian responses can be ambiguous; they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear so as not to please you and so that you do not lose face.
  5. Always budget for “commissions”; you will be expected to pay for any introductions or favours. These payments are the oil that greases the wheel.
  6. Indians are often seen as the best negotiators; they’ll drive a hard bargain, and then drive it some more! Negotiating teams are led by management and supported by technical experts.  High-level management make the decisions but they may not be represented on the team.  Middle Managers do make some input into the decision. Incentives will help the process.
  7. Relationships are important, along with good contacts for business. Building trust is vital.
  8. A win/win approach is aimed at, though compromise is acceptable, but trust makes everyone flexible.
  9. Don’t expect people to use their initiative and make things happen; strong fatalism and predestiny play a large part in people’s thinking. No one will tell the boss he is wrong or making a mistake, even when an underlying knows something is wrong.
  10. Don’t give criticism as Indians easily take offence; be sensitive to, and respectful of, the concept of Face. Harmony is extremely important

Public Holidays:

January 1         New Year’s Day 

January 14       Makara Sakrankti

January 14       Pongal

January 26       Republic Day

February 17     Vasant Panchami/Sri Panchami

February 23     Eid ul Zuha or Adha

March 13         Maha Shivaratri

March 24         Muharram or Ashoora

March 28         Holi

March/April    Good Friday* date changes every year

April 14           Baisakhi, Vishu/Bahag, Mesadi, Maghi

April 21           Sri Rama Navami

April 25           Mahavir Jayanthi

May 25            Milad un Nabi or Eid ul Milad (The Prophet’s Birthday)

August 15        Independence Day

August 22        Raksha Bandhan

August 31        Krishna Janamashti or Janmastami

September 10 Ganesh Chaturthi/Vinayaka Chaturthi

October 2        Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday

October 15      Dussehra (Vijaya Dashmi)

November 4    Diwali (Deepavali)

November 6    Bhai Duj

November 19 Guru Nanak’s Birthday

December 6     Eid ul Fitr

December 25   Christmas Day 

Weekend Saturday, Sunday

Business Hours 9.30-5.00


  1. Focused negotiations and hard bargaining
  2. Pakistan is a large bureaucracy and business is conducted at a slow pace
  3. Build personal relationships before attempting to accomplish your business deals.  Trust is all important
  4. Expect to pay, and budget for, services rendered, introductions made, etc.  The euphemistic and ethical justification for paying these ‘bribes’ is treating them like sales commission
  5. Expect a few meetings to take place before you can secure a deal
  6. Contracts should be drawn up in both English and the local language of the region.
  7. Don’t worry if the other person challenges your every claim and checks and verifies everything in detail before coming to a decision.
  8. Don’t turn down tea offered at a meeting; it’s considered very impolite.
  9. Don’t joke during meetings; it’s considered rude.
  10. Don’t ask direct personal questions, especially about the women in their family.  

Public Holidays:

February 23     Eid Al Adha

March 15         Islamic New Year

March 23         Pakistan Day

March 24         Ashoora

March/April    Good Friday /Easter /Easter Monday date changes every year

May 1 Labour Day

May 25            Prophet’s Birthday

August 14        Independence Day

September 6    Defense of Pakistan Day

September 11 Anniversary of the Death of Qaid-i-Azam

November       Start of Ramadan (not a holiday) date changes every year

November 9    Birthday of Allama Iqbal (National Poet)

December 6     Eid Al Fitr 

December 25   Birthday of Qaid i-Azam (general holiday)

Christmas Day (Christians only)

December 26 Boxing Day (Christians only)

Weekend Friday

Business Hours 9.00-4.00 (Summer 7.30-2.30)

Sri Lanka 

  1. Rapport and trust are necessary to move business along; this takes time to establish.
  2. Socialising comes before any negotiations
  3. Both Sinhalese (Buddhists) and Tamils (Hindus) use traditional and religious beliefs, in combination with their personal feelings and current circumstances, to determine the truth and make decisions.  Rules and facts are not absolute.
  4. People tend to place importance on the group and on an individual’s position and rank within the group.
  5. Responsibility to the self and to personal relationships is high up on the agenda when the Sinhalese make important business decisions.
  6. For the Tamil’s, an individual’s responsibility to the group (the family, social group and religion) is of paramount concern.   
  7. Business women are rare here but you will be treated with respect
  8. Don’t try and hurry things; business moves slowly, delays are frequent, and many trips are necessary.
  9. Don’t be surprised if your counterpart consults an astrologer before making any important business decisions.
  10. Don’t refuse any refreshment offered at the beginning of your meeting; this is a sign of goodwill. Compliment your host as a sign of your appreciation.

Public Holidays:

January 14       Tamil Thai Pongal 

February 4       National Day or Independence Day 

February 23     Eid al Adha

March/April    Good Friday date changes every year

April 13           Sinhala/Tamil New Year’s Eve

April 14           Sinhala/Tamil New Year

May 1 May Day 

May 24            Milad un Nabi or Eid ul Milad-The Prophet’s Birthday 

May 26-27       Vesak(and the following day)

December 6     Eid al Fitr 

December 25   Christmas Day  

Weekend Saturday, Sunday

Business Hours 8.30 – 4.30/5.00

Myanmar (Burma) 

  1. Who you know matters a lot, and good connections are necessary to do business. 
  2. The tradition of repaying favours matters a lot.  You are expected to return a favour without being asked.
  3. Know people’s status, rank, and title. Use correct names and formal titles, especially when dealing with government officials.
  4. Exchanging business cards is an important transaction.
  5. Huge acceptance of authority.  The boss is there to make the decisions.
  6. Egalitarianism is perceived as a threat to harmony
  7. People won’t use their initiative; they’ll be waiting for an OK from their superior.
  8. Maintain your composure at all times
  9. Don’t be surprised that astrologers are used in the decision-making process, or prior to business negotiations.
  10. Don’t expect a good input in discussions; the Myranmar are uncomfortable on committees because governance is  by seniority or hierarchy. 

Public Holidays:

January 4         Independence Day (1948)

February 12     Day of the Burmese Union

February           Eid al Adha

March 2           Peasant’s Day

March 27         Day of the Army

May 1                Labour Day

July 19             Martyr’s Day

Nov/Dec         Eid ul Fitr  

December 25   Christmas Day

Weekend – Saturday, Sunday

Business Hours 7.30-4.30

Buddhist Events:

April  Thingyan Water festival

April  Myanmar New Year

May Full moon day of Kason, Birth & 1st Sermon of Buddha

July  Buddhist Fast begins

October Buddhist Fast ends (Light festival)

November Tazaungdaing, Full moon, (Light festival, Cloth weaving competition)

November National Holiday

DecemberJanuary Kayin New Year

Things to be aware of:

The Months are dependent on waxing and waning of the moon. There are 12 months per year; 29 and 30 days duration alternately:

Myanmar Calendar      Gregorian Calendar

Kason                                       April & May

Nayon                                      May & June

Waso                                         June & July

Wagaung                                  July & August

Tawthalin                                August & September

Thadingyut                            September & October

Tazaungmon                        October & November 

Nadaw                                     November & December

Pyatho                                     December & January

Tabodwe                                 January & February

Tabaung                                  February & March

Tagu                                          March & April

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